The Practice of Abhyasa and Viaragya
You might have heard this saying before, but it’s worth repeating:
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Let’s face it: we can all get stuck. We hold onto patterns, habits, people, and practices that no longer serve us. Maybe there’s something we want— a more fit body, a morning routine that is more intentional, to trust again, even after we’ve been hurt.
But maybe you’re still sitting on the couch and watching Netflix every night while drinking a soda or beer. Maybe you get up to an alarm every morning, but instead of getting out of bed, you scroll Instagram for 20 minutes. It could be that you’re holding onto the past in an effort to protect yourself, so you can’t move forward.
And still, we want something different. We expect something different, even though we’re not changing our behavior.
Now, you might be thinking of that one thing you keep saying you want to change and you might be a little uncomfortable reading this because you feel called out. Don’t worry though— we all have our own shit we’re dealing with as well as that thing (or things) that we haven’t given up yet. We all do the same thing over and over in a specific situation and expect something different.
The good news is, we have our yoga practice to come back to.
With Abyhasa constant practice and Vairagya detachment, the two concepts we talked in Freedom and Liberation Through the Lens of Yoga, we have the power to change and become better versions of ourselves.
The thing is, you have to want it, and you have to take the steps to get there.
Yoga is a path to freedom and liberation.
Consider this excerpt from Journey Back to the Source:
Yoga is what allows us to abandon pleasure and pain, contemplating in ourselves the divine that is difficult to see. It is a meditative discipline capable of realizing the divine power, called shakti, through the control of vital breaths and the restraint of the motion of the breath, in total concentration.
Now, that’s a lot to take in, so let’s dial it back again. Personal freedom is one of the many benefits of yoga.
We don’t have to be victims in our own lives. We don’t have to be captives held hostage to our thoughts or habits when they no longer work.
We can liberate ourselves through the practice of detachment. Here’s a little more from YogaU on how detachment works:
It is the human condition to cling to what we like and push away what we don’t like. We all want to feel as good as possible for as long as possible. While this is human nature, it is also the root of most of our suffering. Strive as we may to cling to comfort and get rid of discomfort, there inevitably comes a time when we have to deal with the stuff we don’t like. And when we get what we do like, no matter how hard we hold on, it will eventually slip away.
In our yoga practice, we learn to deal with these habits of grasping and aversion by noticing our immediate reactions, our clinging and our pushing away. We take a step back to just watch, unattached, observant, still and silent, without judgment. Then we let these feelings go.
This is the practice of vairagya that Patanjali refers to in Yoga Sutra 1.12: Abhyasa vairagyabhyam tat nirodhah (identification with the fluctuations of the mind is stopped by practice and non-attachment). By resisting attachment to our reactions and feelings, we realize that we are so much more than these fleeting, transitory emotions and thoughts. By letting go of grasping and aversion, we open ourselves to a complete and authentic experience of the present.
So tell me, what do you need freedom from today, and how are you going to move toward that freedom?
For Pondering Excerpt from Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm by Thich Nhat Hanh
When we recognize that we have a habit of replaying old events and reacting to new events as if they were the old ones, we can begin to notice when that habit energy comes up. We can then gently remind ourselves that we have another choice. We can look at the moment as it is, a fresh moment, and leave the past for a time when we can look at it compassionately.